Friday, January 07, 2005

Arizona Cardinal News

Cards aide knows he must produce quickly Five NFL offensive coordinators have been fired, forced out or retired since the season ended less than a week ago. So Keith Rowen, introduced Thursday as the Cardinals' fourth coordinator in four seasons, is well aware of the insecurity of his vocation. "All of us have pressure in our jobs, don't we?" he said Thursday in an introductory news conference. "I don't know a day that you don't have expectations to do a good article or do your job correctly. You look at the college coaches, you're down to a three-year cycle. In the NFL, some are a two-year process. What I am saying to you is that we live with that pressure every day. To me it's a matter of opportunity and taking advantage of the opportunity." The opportunity comes for Rowen as he begins his 22nd season as an NFL assistant. He spent the past six seasons in Kansas City coaching tight ends, including perennial Pro Bowl player Tony Gonzalez. Rowen hasn't called plays since 1984 when he was the coordinator for the Boston/New Orleans Breakers of the USFL, but he's equipped to handle the pressure and scrutiny. The son of Vic Rowen, a legendary coach at San Francisco State, Rowen, 52, has been attending football practices and NFL training camps since he was 5. Rowen played at Stanford and has coached nearly every offensive position in the NFL, including the offensive line for three years under Dennis Green in Minnesota. "This is how I have lived my life," he said of coaching. "Coming from a strong football background, coaches and appreciation for coaches and what we do for one another is extremely important to me. "And No. 2, the relationship I have with Dennis Green is special. The years I had in Minnesota were some of the best years of my career so far in the National Football League, not only from a coaching standpoint and an offensive standpoint, but also from a personal relationship." Rowen replaces Alex Wood, fired by Green on Monday after the Cardinals finished the season ranked 27th in offense. Wood, too, was familiar with Green, having worked for him in Minnesota. Green tried to hire Rowen as his offensive line coach a year ago, but he was still under contract with Kansas City. Rowen said he has learned something at every stop in his career, and he choked up when asked what he had learned from Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil. "I learned that people matter," he said, "and what you do for one another is as important as anything you do. He was a special guy." This year, Vermeil allowed his assistants to pursue other jobs because Vermeil has one year left on his contract. "It's always about timing," Green said, "and I think the timing is right this year. I think Keith and I over the years, it's always about getting back together. If it ever happened again that we could work together, Keith and I both said we'd love to do that, because we had some good teams and we worked real well together." Rowen has started work already, but he put off questions about specific players, saying his evaluation process has just started. His goal, he said, is to have an offense that's well balanced, yet caters to the skills of his players. "It's still a people game, and how do you isolate certain guys?" he said. "When Kansas City had Priest Holmes, the running game improved. Along with that, it opened up opportunities in the passing game." He gave few other clues about his offensive philosophy, other than it's obviously similar to Green's. He noted that the league's best offenses - Indianapolis, Minnesota and Kansas City - all have coaches and players who have played in the same system for several years. That's rare these days, especially in Arizona.

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